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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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August 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 48, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Diving Accident Stats are "Inaccurate ... Manipulated ... Misrepresented"

from the August, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dear Undercurrent,

Ken Curtis (Reef Seekers Dive Co., Beverly Hills, CA) objects to my comment in Undercurrent (April) that "The rate of accidents and fatalities has dramatically increased." And then says, "That's not only impossible to determine but simply untrue."

I've been in the professional diving industry since January 1971 and have been consulting as an expert witness in maritime and diving legal cases since 1973 ... both criminal and civil litigation. I've been involved in over 400 cases and never lost one yet.

The cold reality is that the diving industry does not want to discuss or share accurate information about fatalities and incidents. To come up with data about the overall safety record of diving, it's necessary to access and evaluate causation, compliance with industry protocols, breaches of duty, inappropriate procedural methodology, etc. The most important foundational facts are the number of divers participating in the sport, the number of dives, and accidents. These statistics are largely inaccurate, absurdly manipulated, or deliberately misrepresented. And most such data is inaccessible.

Because of my extensive involvement as a diving and maritime litigation consultant, I have specific privity to volumes of statements, official reports (USCG, OSHA, NOAA, training agencies, insurance underwriters, etc.), symposia, formal conference presentations, and constantly evolving safety protocols. My work as an expert witness is nearly evenly divided between plaintiff and defense cases, giving me a reputation for objective testimony. I can access information easily, but much of it remains privileged. The details and facts that result in a settlement or verdict are usually sealed in "confidentiality agreements" where the public ... and the diving industry have no real idea what the facts are.

In the last four years alone, the number of divers participating in the sport has shrunk dramatically. So have certifications. The number of incidents and fatalities has increased. And the pandemic has only made things worse. Those are nasty statistics that most people are clueless about.

Diving needs to get a grip on reality and learn to properly assess risk factors and how to improve safety. I have no problem with critics throwing barbs at me for my objective opinions, but they should make a modicum of effort to get informed of the factors that are crucial to sustaining diving as a business model and one that can make diving safer.

Keeping your head in the sand may work for some animals, but the visibility is terrible...

- Capt. Bret Gilliam
Founder of TDI, SDI, ERDI training agencies
Chairman of the Board NAUI
President, UWATEC.

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